What am I running for, or from?
I did my 3rd road race today - the Race for Our Kids 10k. (For the metrically impaired, that's a little over 6 miles). I had seen it advertised a few times in emails from the Baltimore Running Festival and was debating signing up. A coworker of mine was fielding a team, so it gave me the final nudge to sign up. (btw, if you want to donate the donations page is here - but don't feel obligated.
It was a nice race. As I mentioned, this is the third road race I've done - I did the Baltimore Half-Marathon last year and the Baltimore 10-miler earlier this summer. I was a little apprehensive about doing a short race - my theory has been that I'm slow, but steady, so I figured a shorter race where speed mattered more than endurance would put me at an even bigger disadvantage than normal.
It actually was a really good race - the shorter distance was nice, because I could run more of it (instead of walking) knowing i didn't have as far to go. They also did a really good job with the race - because you are running with a few hundred people instead of a few thousand, there wasn't the the normal frantic push for port-a-potties or parking spaces, and the post-race party was actually catered with good food (including cookies and diet coke!) instead of the normal gatorade and a rotten banana you get at other races.
As far as how I did, that depends how you look at it. My chip time was 1:13:04 - which works out to 11:51 a mile. That's considerably better than my previous races - 13/mile for the 10-miler and 14:38/mile for the half marathon. Of course, it's a shorter race, so my time/mile should be shorter - I was less tired/fatigued, and also didn't have to worry as much about saving myself so I'd have the energy to finish.
Still, overall, that puts me square at the end of the pack - last place in my age and gender bracket (14 out of 14 among males 30-34) and 211 out of 241 overall. Results page is here.
Running is, in a way, an odd sport, for two reasons. First of all, it's one of the only sports where anyone, for the cost of a pair of fancy sneakers and a race entry, can compete against people who are essentially professional athletes, or at least close to the level of them. Secondly, thought, it's a sport where you aren't just competing against the field you are running against, but against yourself, against your own times. And in that sense, the first chance I'll really have to see if I'm making any progress will be in a few weeks, when i do the Baltimore Half for the second time - I'll actually have something to compare to an identical race.
But I also don't have a good reason to expect to do better - besides having a couple additional races under my belt (err, elastic waist shorts) and a few short runs on my basement treadmill, I haven't done any serious additional training beyond my normal daily cardio. OTOH, my normal daily cardio is 90 minutes, so I feel like I can't do a whole lot more without cutting into other activities I enjoy, or at least am obligated to do, like sleeping or going to work.
When i mention my results and the fact that I'm not thrilled with them, people usually say something like "all that matters is that you finished". But while finishing was a suitable goal a year ago, when I had no way of knowing if it was something I could do, it isn't anymore - to succeed in life, you need to set newer, higher goals, not just achieve a previous one over again. So I'm hoping to shave some time off my times, and to continue to run races and train a little more. I'd also like to do some more 10k's like today - probably not this fall, as I will be busy in October and by November it will be too cold - but hopefully in the spring. It's a good chance to get some road-race experience, without the frantic hassle of a big race, and often to throw a few bucks to charities in the process.
The idea of being a better runner appeals to me for a couple reasons, but I think the biggest is because it's something I've never been very good at. I was the last picked in gym class, and for a good reason. Six years ago, I was 25 years old, 5'5", and 250 pounds. Getting from that point to where I am now - 100 pounds lighter and able to finish a race - is at least somewhat of an achievement. There is something appealing about getting good at something I've always been really bad at - just like some of my geeky friends enjoy "hacking" - modifying things to do stuff they were never intended to do - it's interesting to push the limits of what the human body can do.
The question is, am I willing to put in the time to push hard enough? And should I, or would I be better off working on something I'm actually good at - if there actually is anything I'm good at?